Imaging mass spectrometry (IMS) is a toolbox of versatile techniques that enable us to investigate analytes in samples at molecular level. In recent years, IMS, and especially matrix-assisted laser desorption/ionisation (MALDI), has been used to visualise a wide range of metabolites in biological samples. Simultaneous visualisation of the spatial distribution of metabolites in a single sample with little tissue disruption can be considered as one important advantage of MALDI over other techniques. However, several technical hurdles including low concentrations and rapid degradation rates of small molecule metabolites, matrix interference of signals and poor ionisation, need to be addressed before MALDI can be considered as a reliable tool for the analysis of metabolites such as neurotransmitters in brain tissues from different sources including humans. In the present review we will briefly describe current MALDI IMS techniques used to study neurotransmitters and discuss their current status, challenges, as well as future prospects.
2014 The Mass Spectrometry Society of Japan